Apple pops blue bubbles of Beeper Mini's iMessage service again

Anticompetitive ... or simply keeping iDevice users nice and safe?

Apple's game of Whac-A-Mole with messaging platform Beeper continues unabated, with the service reporting today that most users can again no longer send or receive iMessages.

The shutdowns began last week, and by this morning Beeper admitted that more than 60 percent of Beeper Mini and Cloud users could not use iMessages.

"We're fighting to get this fixed," the dev said.

It's debatable if that promise will mean much to anyone other than the company's die-hard users. If messages disappear into the ether and do not arrive at their destination, users will swiftly turn to alternatives regardless of their desire to stick with iMessage.

Beeper describes itself as "the universal communication bus" and seeks to collate different messaging platforms into one service. Unsurprisingly, the company is a big fan of Matrix, with its approach to bridging between services. In 2020, company boss Eric Migicovsky said: "I think Matrix could form the basis for a true universal communications bus."

Beeper, as initially envisioned, was a simple to set up client to allow users to chat to various networks via Matrix.

On December 5, the company introduced Beeper Mini. The app was designed for Android phones and allowed users to send and receive iMessages, something that had previously been exclusive to Apple devices. It did not use the Matrix protocol, although support is promised in the future.

Beeper made previous attempts in the past to enter the iMessage world, but all tended to use a Mac relay server in the data center. Secure and scalable were not words associated with the solution.

The Mini relied on some reverse engineering and instead connected directly to Apple's servers right up until Apple closed whatever loophole Beeper was using. Beeper responded by releasing an update to dodge the block. Apple responded once more. And here we are.

Over the weekend, members of the US Congress wrote to the US Assistant Attorney General describing Apple's actions as "potentially uncompetitive." Be that as it may – and there are plenty of people happy to argue that reverse engineering is perfectly legal against others who would say that using Apple's servers in this way most certainly is not – what matters to users is message delivery.

Text in a blue bubble is a reassuring thing for the majority of Apple device users. Despite a promise to adopt the Rich Communication Services (RCS) messaging standard, Apple has insisted that only iMessage messages would retain the coveted blue bubble.

As the war of blocking runs on, customers seeking secure messaging between different vendors' ecosystems must look elsewhere – something like Signal springs to mind. And as well as losing the battle regarding iMessage – at least at the time of writing – it would only take Apple to make an iMessage client available on other platforms for Beeper to lose the war. ®

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